Creating a homemade crackle paint finish is fast and easy. In fact, glue is the only ingredient needed for a basic crackle finish, besides the paint. Use this finish on furniture and accessory items like cigar boxes, wood candlesticks and wooden bowls. A quick sweep up from the sanding process, a mild detergent and water for cleaning brushes are all that is needed to clean up after a homemade crackle paint project is complete.
Assemble the materials needed---any white or yellow glue, latex (or any water-based paint), a sash brush (for the glue) and a paint brush. Choose a latex paint colour that works with the idea of ageing or older furniture---browns, dark green, dark blues or dirty reds. Although any colour can be used, the purpose of a crackle finish is to make an item appear older than it is. Be prepared to wash brushes immediately after use, particularly the brush used for applying the glue.
Prep the surface
Sand the the surface of the item with a fine grit sandpaper. Wipe down the surface to remove dirt and sanding residue. Sanding allows a flat surface for the glue to adhere to. Missed spots and left behind grit can add to the final character of the crackle process---do not be concerned if a spot is missed. Paint a coat of glue over the entire surface to be crackled. Work quickly using the sash brush. Do not cover a spot twice. Allow the glue to dry for 4 or 5 hours. Do not sand the glue. Sanding breaks up the glue causing the crackle finish to fail.
Apply the finish
Brush the paint directly over the layer of dry glue. Thick, wet coats of paint cause larger crackles. Thinner coats create smaller crackles. Variety in the crackle finish makes the item appear older and more worn. It is important to coat the item with paint in one stroke. Do not go back and touch up the paint as this will ruin the finish process, requiring a complete sanding to begin again. As the paint dries, it shrinks, giving the appearance of cracking. Between the various sizes and shapes of rectangles and squares that form the wood colour beneath begins to show through. Allow the paint to dry for several hours before touching.
Further distress the item by sanding edges and corners. Include areas that would wear naturally with use---around drawer handles or across the top of a dresser. Further ageing can be achieved by adding a finishing wax. Using 120 ml (½ cup) of common paste wax, add a spoonful of burnt umber pigment powder (sold at art supply stores) and mix the the two together. Use a scouring pad or steel wool and rub the mixture into the item. Work the paste into the cracks and use a toothbrush to push the wax into intricate details. When the paste covers the piece, rub the item down with a clean cloth to remove excess wax.